02 December 2010 | Dana Point
I'm back in Mission Bay and will be sailing home later today. On Tuesday, my last day in Dana Point, my friend Yvette came to visit me, we decided to take a walk and went over to a place called Ocean Institute, Ocean Institute is a fairly large facility which includes a learning center with teaching labs, ocean aquariums, a maritime learning center, a research vessel R/V Sea Explorer, the tall ships schooner Spirit of Dana Point and brig Pilgrim. The Pilgrim is a replica of the ship that Richard Henry Dana Jr. worked on from 1834-1836. Dana was a 19 year old Harvard University student who left his studies and took a job as a common sailor aboard the Pilgrim, he kept a journal of his travels and it was made into a book called Two Years Before the Mast (Ric), while we were in the gift shop I bought a toned down version of the book to read on my back to San Diego. One of the many thing OI does is to bring young children onto the Pilgrim and teach them what it was like to be a sailor aboard a brig in the 1800's, life was VERY difficult in those days for the men who carried freight from the east coast to the west coast and back. As Yvette and I were walking back we saw a group of young children, maybe in the 10 year old range, lined up at the entrance to the pier that leads down to the Pilgrim, the kids had bags to spend the night and were excitedly listening to some dude dressed up like a sailor of the 1800's barking out at them, and responding back with a very enthusiastic " YES SIR MR. SO AND SO", Yvette and I stopped to watch and the sailor dude yelled that he needed two volunteers for galley duties, two young girls came quickly up from the back of the group and the sailor dude stepped up to them and in a VERY loud voice yelled " GET YOUR FOOT OFF OF MY PIER, WHO GAVE YOU PERMISSION TO STEP ON MY PIER" and then proceeded to rake the poor little kids over the coals for not obeying orders. Yvette and I looked at each other in shock, we walked to the other side of the pier listening to sailor dude continue to rant and rave at these poor little kids who by this time were responding back in very meek little voices "yes sir Mr.so and so". Well Yvette and I decided this horrible abuse of the little kids had to stop so we set out to find someone in authority and came across a guy by the name of George Mack, who is the History Coordinator, Maritime Department for OI, we explained the horrible things we had witnessed and George responded back "good, that means we're doing our jobs", well Yvette and I looked at each other in disbelieve....has this whole place gone crazy, George picked up on our shock and immediately began trying to calm us down. George explained that the children have been working towards this day for some time, they had to read the book, they had to learn to do different types of jobs required of sailors in the 1800's, they leaned to tie knots and most importantly they were prepped that they were to be treated the same as an ordinary sailor would have been. George, whom is the most passionate man about his job that I have ever meet, then began telling us about all of the things the kids have been doing and were to be doing during their stay aboard the Pilgrim, they are put to work cleaning, hauling freight, hoisting sails (in a mock set up with pads, see pic) rowing the smaller boats around the bay and standing watches throughout the night. George took us into the training facility and showed us how to "lay on"(pic) while hoisting/furling the sails, and showed us many other teaching aids which they use.
Ocean Institute is a VERY well respected teaching facility founded in 1977, that has received numerous national awards, their mission statement is "to inspire all generations through education, to become responsible stewards of our oceans". George could have just told us to take a hike and mind our own business, instead he took at least an hour of his valuable time to educated us about a very special program.
I would also like to add that the parents, teachers and kids are given a chance to opt out of the program, it is also explained to the kids that yelling at people is not a proper way to act and as demonstrated to them no one likes to be treated that way.